Among enterprise-scale organizations, from healthcare to government to higher education, we’ve seen many content owners longing for a faster, easier way to manage content-rich websites. While consumer-level content platforms like Squarespace or Wix make it easy to assemble web pages in minutes, most enterprise-level platforms prioritize content governance, stability, and security over ease of use.
Which is a nice way of saying, sometimes building a new page is as much fun as getting a root canal.
That’s why we’re excited about Site Studio, a robust page-building tool from our partners at Acquia. Site Studio makes content editing on Drupal websites faster and more cost-effective, while making it easy for non-technical users to create beautiful, brand-compliant content.
In this article, we’ll explain what Site Studio is, why you might want it for your next Drupal project, and a few cautions to consider.
What is Site Studio?
Formerly known as Cohesion, Site Studio is a low-code visual site builder for Drupal that makes it easy to create rich, component-based pages without writing code in PHP, HTML, or CSS. Essentially, it’s a more feature-rich alternative to Drupal’s native design tool, Layout Builder.
How does Site Studio work? Site developers lay the groundwork by building a component library and reusable templates with brand-approved design elements, such as hero banners, article cards, photo grids, buttons, layouts, and more. They can either create custom components or customize existing components from a built-in UI kit.
Content editors, marketers, and other non-technical folks can then create content directly in the front end of the website, using a drag-and-drop visual page builder with a full WYSIWYG interface and real-time previews.
Who is Site Studio For?
In our experience, the businesses that benefit most from a powerful tool like Site Studio tend to be enterprise-level organizations with content-rich websites — especially those that own multiple sites, like colleges and universities.
Within those organizations, there are a number of roles that can leverage this tool:
With Site Studio, marketers and content editors can browse to any web page they want to update, and edit both the content and settings directly on the page. Rewriting a header, swapping an image with a text box, or rearranging a layout can be done in just seconds.
Using Drupal’s site configuration interfaces and Site Studio’s theming tools, site builders can easily create Drupal websites end-to-end, establishing everything from the information architecture to the content editing experience.
Managers can define site wide elements, like headers and footers or page templates, to ensure that an organization’s branding and design preferences are carried out. They can also create sub-brand versions of websites that have unique styles alongside consistent brand elements.
IT and web teams
By putting content creation and updates in the hands of content authors, Site Studio frees up developers to work on more critical projects. In addition, new developers don’t need to have expert-level Drupal theming experience, because Site Studio takes care of the heavy lifting.
What Can You Do With Site Studio?
Site Studio makes it easy to create and manage web content with impressive flexibility, giving content owners greater control over their websites without risking quality or functionality. Here’s how.
Go to market faster.
Site Studio’s low-code nature and library of reusable components (the building blocks of a website) speeds up both site development and content creation. Creators can quickly assemble content-rich pages, while developers can easily synchronize brand styles, components, and templates.
Site Studio provides a UI Kit with around 50 predefined components, like Text, Image, Slider, Accordion, etc… Developers can also build custom components. Change any component in the library, and all instances of that component will update automatically. You can also save layout compositions as reusable ”helpers” to streamline page creation.
Build beautiful pages easily.
While we love the power and versatility of Drupal, its page building function has never been as user-friendly as, say, WordPress. Site Studio’s Visual Page Builder brings the ease of consumer-level platforms to the enterprise website world.
This intuitive, drag-and-drop interface lets users add or rewrite text, update layouts, and change fonts, styles, colors, or images without any technical help. And, it’s easy to create new pages using components or page templates from the asset library.
Ensure brand consistency.
With Site Studio, you can define standards for visual styles and UI elements at the component level. This provides guardrails for both front-end developers and content creators, who draw on the component library to build new pages. In addition, Site Studio’s import and sync capabilities make it easy to enforce brand consistency across multiple sites.
Get the best out of Drupal.
Because Site Studio is designed exclusively for Drupal, it supports many of Drupal’s core features. With Site Studio’s component library, for instance, you can create templates for core content types in Drupal. Site Studio also supports a number of contributed content modules (created by Drupal’s open-source community), so developers can add additional features that are compatible with Site Studio’s interface.
What Are Some Limitations of Using Site Studio?
There’s no doubt Site Studio makes life easier for everyone from marketers to web teams. But there are a few things to consider, in terms of resource costs and potential risks.
Start from the ground up.
To ensure the best experience, Site Studio should be involved in almost all areas of your website. Unlike other contributed modules, it’s not a simple add-on — plan on it being the core of your Drupal site’s architecture.
This will let you make decisions based on how Site Studio prefers a feature to be implemented, rather than bending Drupal to fit your needs (as is often the case). Staying within Site Studio’s guardrails will make development easier and faster.
Be careful with custom components.
With its recent Custom Components feature, Site Studio does let developers create components using their preferred code instead of its low-code tools. So, you can create a level of custom functionality, but you must work within Site Studio’s architecture (and add development time and cost).
If you decide instead that for a given content type, you’re going to sidestep Site Studio and build something custom, you’ll lose access to all its components and templates — not to mention having to manage content in different systems, and pay for the custom development.
Rolling back changes is tough.
A standard Drupal site has two underlying building blocks: database and code. Drupal uses the code (written by developers) to carry out functions with the database.
When a developer changes, say, the HTML code for a blog title, the change happens in the code, not the database. If that change happened to break the page style, you could roll back the change by reverting to the previous code. In addition, most developers test changes first in a sandbox-type environment before deploying them to the live website.
By contrast, with Site Studio, most changes happen exclusively in the database and are deployed via configuration. This presents a few areas of caution:
- Users with the correct permissions can override configuration on a live site, which could impact site functionality.
- Database changes can have far-reaching impacts. If you have to roll back the database to fix a problem, you’ll lose any content changes that were made since the last backup.
That’s why Site Studio requires meticulous QA and careful user permissioning to prevent inadvertent changes that affect site functionality.
One Last Thing: You Still Need Developers
While it’s true that just about anyone in your organization can create pages with Site Studio’s intuitive interface, there are still aspects of building and maintaining a Drupal website that require a developer. Those steps include:
- Setup and implementation of Site Studio,
- Building reusable components and templates, and
- Back-end maintenance (like updates, compliance, and security).
However, once the components have been built, it’s easy for non-technical content owners to create beautiful pages. In the end, you’ll be able to launch websites and pages faster — with the creativity and consistent identity your brand deserves.
Interested in learning whether Site Studio is a good fit for your Drupal website? Contact us for more info.